America’s military versus the world

I am pro-military. I think having a strong military means we’re unlikely to have to use it to protect ourselves. But how strong does it actually need to be?

For the sake of argument, I’ll assume that spending corresponds to strength. That is, America spending $1 million gives us roughly as much military power as China or Russia spending $1 million. If this is not true, then we’re spending money poorly and should re-evaluate our budget before increasing it. But that whole line of argument frankly disrespects our world’s finest soldiers and sailors, so let’s agree to set that aside for now.

According to SIPRI, these are the budgets of the world’s biggest militaries in 2015, in billions of dollars:

World Military Spending, 2015

# Country Spending ($B) Cumulative ($B) Ally
1 United States 596.0    
2 China 215.0 215.0  
3 Saudi Arabia 87.2 302.2  
4 Russia 66.4 368.6  
5 United Kingdom 55.5 424.1
6 India 51.3 475.4
7 France 50.9 526.3
8 Japan 40.9 567.2
9 Germany 39.4 606.6
10 South Korea 36.4 643.0

The extra column, “Cumulative”, is a running total of the budgets of countries other than the United States. Look at Germany, #9 on the list: that’s where the rest of the world added together is finally bigger than America. We literally spend more than the next 8 countries after us. Of those, UK, India, France, Japan, and Germany are staunch US allies. Removing those, we outspend the remaining top three countries by 60%. Even in an outlandishly unrealistic scenario where we’d be fighting all three of them simultaneously1, with no help at all from our allies, we’d probably still win by a wide margin.

If something like that happened, we would get help from our allies on this list, whose militaries add up to $274.4B, or just $94.4B shy of those top three “unfriendly” countries (and $59.4B greater than China alone). In a likely situation where the rest of the world shows up, our combined allied strength is vastly stronger than any potential enemies.

We’re currently hearing lots of propaganda about our pathetic, run-down little military. Those are unpatriotic lies. We already have the world’s largest military and it’s nearly three times stronger than runner up China. We could probably be making wiser decisions about how we’re spending our money, but if anyone tells you we should be spending more, make sure their hands aren’t reaching for your wallet.

  1. China and Russia aren’t strongly allied with each other; they’re not going to double-team us. We are China’s biggest trading partner and they don’t want to cripple their economy by destroying that relationship. We have our disagreements with Saudi Arabia, but not so many that they’re going to throw away decades of friendship and attack us. That we’d have to fight all three at once is ridiculous, but I’m using that as an absurd worst-case scenario.